Monthly Archives: April 2009

What has Michael Palin done?

Anyone familiar with the BBC travel documentaries of Michael Palin would be aware that he is a mild man with a mildly amused view of the world. Anyone not familiar with them can easily imagine such mild television viewing. So it was with some amusement that I noticed that the Australian Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has provided the following advice about “Michael Palin’s New Europe” – “PG – Mild themes”.

This is a joke, right? No, the joke is that it is true. In blind and sincere obedience to the idiotic legislation by which they work the OFLC has made a mildly amusing joke. They are so out of touch with community standards that they are no longer making normal sense (no doubt it makes sense in their own strange world). Does anyone still take the OFLC seriously?

What kind of parental guidance could one give about “mild themes”? That was a mild, son, compared to the hardcore stupidity of Australian censorship.

Graffiti & Censorship

In January 2009, Australian censors banned issue #8 of Dirty Deeds, an Australian graffiti magazine.  I’m unsure who Dirty Deeds are. They might be one are a crew of breakbeat DJs from Melbourne. Dirty Deeds is published by Dirty Deeds Streetwear. (Dirty Deeds is, just in case anyone’s missed it, a title of an AC/DC song). I have not seen any issues of the magazine but early issues of the magazine are still available from various places in Europe online. From online descriptions the magazine is about 100 pages and contains images and reports about Australian graffiti and pieces from Australian writers on tour. If anyone knows anymore about Dirty Deeds or the censorship of its issue#8 please leave a comment.

Censorship of graffiti related material has been increasing, like Mark Ecko’s Atari game “Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure” or the film about graffiti, 70K that the Melbourne Underground Film Festival attempted to show last year. These items are being censored in Australia because they “promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence”. This is a very broad category that could include information on crime prevention or a movie showing an armed robbery etc. It is also far broader than any other countries protection, e.g. the USA where  “…the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”  Per Curiam Opinion, Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969)

This is the same excuse for censorship that lead to the protracted 1995-1999 persecution of the editors of the LaTrobe University student newspaper, Rabelais (eventually the charges were dropped with no explanation, so calling it a ‘prosecution’ is misdirection). This law is only used against small independent publishers although the law is so broad it could be used against any publisher with any crime content. The government’s application of this law makes it intentions clear; the government wants to use it to justify the persecution of some victims of moral panic.

Censorship is unjust in that it is arbitrary. It is arbitrary in the choice of targets and in the rules that govern censorship. What will be censored it is rarely completely defined but kept vague and subject to opinion of an authority.

When censorship is not arbitrary it does tend to create embarrassing moments for the authorities when they quickly back down in the face of unimpeachable examples. Creating rules for censorship is not a simple as stating no images of nipples, public hair, torture, bestiality or naked children. Under the Jacaranda Tree has a story about a Chinese blogger who fought the censorship of his Renaissance nudes. The story is similar to an early 2008 controversy London Underground censoring another image of a Renaissance nude. Renaissance nudes are an unimpeachable example that any censorship rules, guidelines or legislation must avoid censoring to appear reasonable and sensible.

One strategy to avoid such ridicule is for censorship to be arbitrary. In Australia censorship is a discretionary act instigated by a complaint. For example, there have been nude photographs exhibited in public at Platform that have been censored and others that have not because censorship by the City of Melbourne is based on complaints.

Censorship continues to be an ugly, arbitrary and unjust feature of Australian law. And I am sick of it.

Melbourne Festival City

Melbourne has many arts and culture festivals: arts, film, music, food, comedy, fashion, stencils, flowers and gardens… They range from the “international” to the “underground” or “fringe.” There are so many arts and culture festivals in Melbourne that many overlap on the calendar. Currently the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival are both on.

Do all of these festivals add depth to Melbourne’s culture? Do they attract a wider audience and so build a larger audience base for art, music, comedy etc.? Or, are they rather a thinner, superficial, marketing exercise? The festivals pretend to curate and promote an aspect of culture while actually reducing it to a spectacle.

The arts festival is spectacle that can be marketed and managed rather than an organic culture. That the Melbourne International Arts Festival (MIAF) is dominated by marketing was clear to anyone who filled in the MIAF online survey; the questions were all about classifying the audience for the advertisers. There were questions about cars and travel rather than anything about the artistic content of MIAF. Sponsors and advertisers are important to fund a festival but the position should not be reversed; festivals should not become types marketing and publicity.

Part of the problem is that festivals have staff. The festival organisers try to prove that they are doing a good job at running a festival by running a bigger festival. The festival organizers try to attract more sponsorship, organize bigger festivals with more venues, more events and less and less definition of the festival. Many of the festivals lack of any curatorial supervision; whoever applies will be included.

Every year I get emails from artists complaining about the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The “Melbourne Fringe Festival” sounds very exciting, cool and interesting; the word ‘fringe’ is a good selling point. However the Fringe Festival is a criticism free zone, it is all-good, it is all promotion for the festival.

At least many of the Comedy Festival shows will be reviewed on the Groggy Squirrel; the Groggy Squirrel reviews live comedy in Australia. I went to one performance that was part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival but I’m unlike to go to another. Janeane Garofalo bored me with her observational comedy that relied on reactionary television shows that I’ve never watched.

Melbourne’s festivals are just a marketing vehicle, another promotional expense for the participants, another advertising and sponsorship vehicle, and another festival package for the consumer. It is not as if you would notice these arts festivals walking down Melbourne’s street, not like the festivals of Xmas or Easter. Well, you might have noticed the Comedy Festival if you were walking past the Melbourne Town Hall last night with a stilt-walking Cthulhu but if you were on the other side of Swanston Walk you might have only seen the regular buskers. The existence of these arts festivals is an exercise in marketing rather than an organic result of the culture. They are a distraction from the creative process, not an enhancement.

More Legal Street Art in Brunswick

This is a follow up to my entry on Legal Street Art in Brunswick. This is mostly because some fresh legal street art has been painted since I wrote that entry specifically in the area of Anstey Station on the Upfield line. The area around Anstey is factories, warehouses, shops, a fruit and vegetable market and new multi-story apartments. There are a lot of rubbish, tags and spray painted political slogans on walls and fences in the area but again none on any of the legal street art.

Fishing Tackle Clearance Centre

Fishing Tackle Clearance Centre

The Fishing Tackle Clearance Centre has had legal street art on it for years. Its walls face onto the Anstey station railway platform. Last weekend it was repainted with 6 new pieces with a more nautical theme, more fish, fishermen and an octopus on the roller door. The first legal graffiti work had been there for about a decade and the colours had faded.



Last weekend a different crew painted the sidewall of 696 (Sirum, Reals, Scale, Kirpy, Happy and Lady). The repainting was part of the celebration their second anniversary. The work combines a few different techniques including brush painting by Aida Sabie and some superb stencils. The whole piece has a strong unified palette of black, grey, white with yellow and orange highlights. Further down the alleyway Pav has stapled a sample of his silk-screened posters to the fence.

Office Cafe

Office Cafe

Across Sydney Road, on the sidewall of 646 Office Café, is large piece by Fly, F1 and THD. It is several years old now but still looking good and undamaged by tags. And further down Florence Street is the piece on the side of a house with Ganesa in it, again undamaged.

Ganesa of Florence St. Brunswick

Ganesa of Florence St. Brunswick

I don’t want to suggest that these paintings are great art, mostly they are colour and design, but they do brighten up and enliven the neighbourhood. And so for that community spirit, the business and individuals who have allowed this to happen aught to be supported and commended. It is much better than advertising posters.

Also in the Anstey area of Brunswick there is an alternative art exhibition space in the window of the Edinburgh Castle Hotel’s display window. This small display window is an excellent exhibition space, with two back mirrors adding the illusion of depth. The back wall is a canvas blind and does not appear to be strong enough to hang anything on. The window it is located near a tram stop on Sydney Rd. so it seen by lots of people. Belinda Wiltshire installation in the window features the paper figures and set for the music video of Lamplight’s song “Ship in a Bottle” (The video can be seen in the background of Lamplight’s live performance but there must be a complete one out there). Wiltshire’s installation works by itself, as a colourful and engaging diorama was perfect for both the space and audience on the street. The second exhibition that I’ve seen in this window is light boxes with negative photographic images by an unnamed artist. Unfortunately these light boxes had been designed to be hung on a wall don’t work in this window.

%d bloggers like this: